Teaming Up With JPMorgan Chase For Detroit’s Neighborhoods

Neighborhoods matter. They’re the foundation of cities and states, and the building blocks of communities. In May 2014, JPMorgan Chase & Co. made a $100 million investment in Detroit’s economic recovery, including $25 million to Capital Impact Partners helped launch the Detroit Neighborhoods Fund. The revitalization initiative is community-focused, with projects that include multi-family housing options for those with low and moderate incomes and grocery stores that bring fresh, healthy foods to the city.

Capital Impact Partners sat down with JPMorgan Chase vice president Aaron Seybert, who leads the firm’s Community Development Banking Program in Detroit, to get his thoughts on the city, its neighborhoods, and the future.

JPMorgan Chase vice president Aaron Seybert leads the firm’s Community Development Banking Program in Detroit

CI: WHY INVEST IN DETROIT?

AS: Detroit is an iconic place, and the scope of its problems is unprecedented for a major U.S. city. Our chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon, felt there was something the bank could do—using its resources and expertise—to make an impact. Detroit has been an important city to Chase for more than 80 years. It’s one of our largest markets, and we’ve been an active contributor to the community and its residents and businesses for a long time.

CI: WHY IS NOW THE RIGHT TIME FOR THE DETROIT NEIGHBORHOOD FUNDS (DNF)?

AS: We believe Detroit is at a tipping point. The city’s new leadership and its exit from bankruptcy have solidified its critical changes. Detroit is at a unique point in its history. Business, state, national, and local leaders are all coming together to take the problems head-on and turn things around. We feel Mayor Duggan is the right person at the right time. We’re seeing cooperation from the city counsel. Civic leaders such as Dan Gilbert and Roger Penske and organizations such as the Kellogg and Kresge Foundations are putting so much focus on the city. This is its moment.

Through the Detroit Neighborhoods Fund, Capital Impact financed the revamping of the historic Rainer Court, which was originally built in the 1920’s.

CI: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT OBJECTIVE OF THE DNF?

AS: A lot of young professionals are moving into the city, and there isn’t enough quality market-rate housing to meet the demand. Our goal is to pull forward development projects on a timeline that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. The city’s dynamics made it difficult for developers to access conventional financing. Although rents can justify the value of the building, traditional underwriting doesn’t work. Capital Impact, with support from JPMorgan Chase, is filling that space. Together, we have local knowledge, expertise, and relationships to facilitate projects that might not have gotten off the ground because they couldn’t get financing and would have taken three to five years to complete.

And a rising tide lifts all boats. The more projects that are brought online, the more it will impact the value of others, and the closer the capital and market values will become.

CI: WHY DID JPMORGAN CHASE BELIEVE CAPITAL IMPACT WAS THE RIGHT PARTNER?

AS: That decision was based on Capital Impact’s national scope, reach, and expertise. Capital Impact is one of the largest, highest performing entities among current CDFIs. They’re also on the ground doing the work in Detroit. They’re professional, smart people, and they’ve demonstrated success in the market. They’re best-in-class. Creating a national partnership made sense; we work with them across multiple lines of business and in every state where they have a presence.

Capital impact is filling the space between conventional financing and where the markets are…You don’t revitalize a city all at once. You start in one place with one product set and you grow. We’re marching along, and our vision is to make a difference.

CI: THE DNF BROUGHT ITS FIRST PROJECT ONLINE AT THE END OF 2014: RAINIER COURT, A $6 MILLION FOUR-STORY APARTMENT BUILDING. WHY WAS THIS PROJECT IMPORTANT?

AS: Rainer Court is important because, although it’s still in Midtown, it’s west of Cass Avenue. If you look at the concentration of activity within the Woodward Corridor, the greater part of it is east of Cass. This project shows that the edges are bleeding; development is going beyond its nucleus into an area that hadn’t yet seen investment.

Through the Detroit Neighborhoods Fund, Capital Impact financed the revamping of the historic Rainer Court, which was originally built in the 1920’s.

CI: WHAT IS JPMORGAN CHASE’S VISION FOR DETROIT MOVING FORWARD?

AS: Capital impact is filling the space between conventional financing and where the markets are. Our goal in a neighborhood is always to spur additional investment and pull forward projects that create success in a short period of time. We think projects west of Cass will eventually attract market rate capital, and that we can move into more neighborhoods. You don’t revitalize city all at once. You start in one place with one product set and then you grow. We’re marching along, and our vision is to make a difference.

Construction shot: © 2015 Capital Impact Partners / Peter Baker Rendering: © 2015 PK Housing & Management Seybert Photo: © 2015 JPMorgan Chase

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